Morning briefing: UN chief welcomes India, Pak decision to engage in dialogue

GN Staff | December 9, 2015


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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon today welcomed the decision by India and Pakistan to engage in a comprehensive dialogue to discuss peace and security issues and hoped for progress in their efforts to resolve their differences "bilaterally" through negotiations.India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to hold a comprehensive bilateral dialogue on outstanding issues, including terrorism and Kashmir, a breakthrough that followed several high-level contacts after a prolonged period of ups and downs in ties.External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made the announcement about the resumption of dialogue during a joint news conference with Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s foreign policy adviser, at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

Earlier in the day, Swaraj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit, expected to be held in September 2016. “He will be coming,” she told the media. This will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister since 2004, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had attended a SAARC Summit.The comprehensive dialogue will have the eight issues that were part of the earlier composite dialogue and some additional components, said Swaraj, who held back-to-back meetings with Aziz and prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Winter session of parliament frozen as Cong decides to step up protests

Like two previous sessions, the winter session of parliament is also headed for an acrimonious battle between the Congress and the government with the main opposition party deciding to step up protests in both houses on the National Herald issue.At a strategy meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leaders resolved to escalate the issue and fight it both legally and politically.The meeting also decided that Congress MPs will continue with their protests inside parliament and “frustrate the government’s efforts” to push its legislative agenda.The Congress’ aggressive posturing has cast a shadow on the passage of the crucial goods and services tax (GST) bill in the ongoing session.On Wednesday evening, senior leaders and lawyers Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi briefed Congress MPs of the Rajya Sabha on the National Herald case. Lok Sabha members will be briefed on Thursday.

Dawood's car sold for Rs 32,000, to be used as ambulance or burnt as effigy
A Hyundai Accent car that once drove around India’s most-wanted criminal Dawood Ibrahim was sold for Rs 32,000 in Mumbai on Wednesday as authorities auctioned off a clutch of properties allegedly belonging to the mob boss who continues to elude them.While a restaurant once purportedly owned by the gangster was purchased for over Rs 4 crore, other pieces of real estate reportedly belonging to him also went under the hammer, fetching several lakh rupees.The hotel in Dawood’s den Bhendi Bazaar was bought by former journalist S Balakrishnan, who was representing an NGO, for Rs 4.28 crore. He said “My trust will be using the property to run a computer institute for the children of Bhendi Bazaar. The institute will be named after freedom fighter Ashfaqulla Khan,” he said.Swami Chakrapani of the Hindu Mahasabha picked up the Hyundai Accent car. “We will use it as an ambulance and if it is not fit for it, we will burn it as an effigy of D-company,” he said, adding that his organisation wants to prove that there is no longer any fear of the gangster.Dawood is accused of masterminding the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed more than 250 people and wounded over 700. He fled India in the 1980s and is reportedly hiding in Pakistan.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg speaks out in support of Muslims
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said he supported Muslims in his community and around the world.Muslims in the United States and abroad have been criticised in the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.His comments appeared aimed at countering the call by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States.Stating that I want to add voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world, Zuckerberg said, " After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others." "As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn't against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.

Consumer court allows retesting of 16 samples of Maggi noodles
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on Tuesday allowed further testing of samples of Maggi noodles, following a request by the government, which has filed a Rs 640-crore class-action suit against Nestlé India for unfair trade practices.Though the Union of India (UOI) had asked for further testing of 31 samples of Maggi products, including noodles, an NCDRC bench comprising justice VK Jain and justice BC Gupta allowed retesting of only 16 samples.The department of consumer affairs had alleged that Nestlé India “indulged in unfair trade practices by false labelling of Maggi Noodles in as much as it states ‘No added MSG’ prominently on packet, despite presence of MSG”. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a salt used in the food industry for enhancing flavour.

India has world’s 3rd-highest number of tech startups: Google

With more than 4,100 enterprises, India is the third-largest base of tech startups in the world and the number is set to grow manifold over the next few years, technology giant Google said on Wednesday.Highlighting the boom in India’s tech sector in recent years, Google India head Rajan Anandan said a connected India with access to the web will empower its citizens, helping businesses grow and create growth for the economy.“At over 4,100 enterprises, India has the third-highest number of tech startups in the world, this number is expected to reach several thousand by 2020,” he added in a blog post.India is home to over 300 million internet users and another 200 million are expected to come online by 2017.By 2018, eight million Indian companies are expected to connect and perform transactions online.

Total prohibition of liquor is unrealistic, says Odisha minister

After rejecting the demand for a blanket ban on consumption and manufacture of liquor in Odisha, the state government termed total prohibition as “unrealistic.”“It is not a realistic step to declare the entire state as a total prohibition area,” Excise minister Damodar Rout said while replying to a written question in the Assembly.The minister’s reply came a day after the women’s wing of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) supported by several social organisations, staged a rally demanding a ban on the consumption and manufacture of alcohol in the state.The social organisations and political parties in Odisha have intensified their demand of total prohibition in the state after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar banning alcohol in his state from April 1, 2016.“It is impossible to end the affinity of consumers towards alcohol even if the state declares a total prohibition,” Rout said adding a ban on liquor on the other hand create opportunities for illegal and illicit trade of liquor.

Cabinet clears buffer stock of pulses
The Union cabinet on Wednesday took a string of decisions, including creating a buffer stock of pulses and granting infrastructure status to shipbuilding, that will help check inflation and revive industrial activity. The government has also approved a legislation to declare 106 additional waterways as national waterways.The buffer stock will be created in current year itself through a procurement of about 50,000 tonne pulses from the kharif crop 2015-16 and one lakh ton out of arrivals of rabi crop of 2015-16. "The decision to create a buffer stock of pulses to deal with wide fluctuation in prices is an important step for checking food inflation. This will also encourage farmers to take up pulses production on a larger scale and will enable India to help achieve self-sufficiency in pulses in a few years," the government said in a statement. The cabinet has approved a Rs 4,000-crore financial assistance package to encourage shipbuilding and ship repair industry in the country and granted infrastructure status to the shipbuilding industry.

The policy includes direct financial assistance to shipyards. It would be in place for 10 years. Under the policy, the government will give a subsidy of 20% to private players on the total contract cost after the delivery of the ship. The subsidy will be reduced 3% every three years and and phased out in ten years. The government has declared 106 additional inland waterways as the national waterways. This will increase the total number of national waterways to 111. The step will boost the government's plan to use waterways for transportation of commodities such as coal. Use of waterways could cut the cost of transportation by over 50% as compared to railways.

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